Hilarious Election / Erection Mix-Up!

It’s election time again and what better way to add some life to the seemingly endless parade of clapped-out hacks that the electorate clearly despises than by dusting off the usual comedians and commentators to make the usual comedy and comments? Seriously, what better way? There’s got to be a better way, people. Here’s a suggestion: maybe get Shaun Micallef to handle things next time?

Of the two shows returning to the ABC tonight, Gruen Nation continues to be the one of no use to anyone. The tone was set with the opening with the audience laughing at an old Country Party promotional film, which was funny because… people in the past are funny? Because they weren’t as media savvy as we are today? And then we zoned out for a while imagining a show where old people heaped shit on Wil Anderson for not being able to do sums using a slide rule. So much shit. And when we zoned back in Anderson said “same as last time…” and we zoned back out again.

You know the drill by now: wacky opening monologue, here’s the panel, let’s look at a few ads, the TV screen suddenly shatters under the force of our boot because Jesus Fuck, these smug bastards talk about everything but the one thing that actually matters: how what we’re seeing will affect people in the real world. It’s sooo cool to look at political commercials with a disinterested eye and pretend that there’s nothing beneath them, isn’t it? Caring about actual policy is for losers, right guys? Let’s get some ad agencies to write some funny songs, that’ll be hilarious.

Our griping about that stuff might seem beside the point: it’s still a comedy, right? Well, it’s a shit comedy for starters: you want to gut the running time, maybe five full minutes of Anderson’s opening monologue / clip fest is four minutes too long. The panelists laugh at each others jokes, then we cut to Anderson laughing, then we cut to the audience applauding; why again does this needs to go for 45 minutes? Ha ha, they edited Kevin Rudd to make it look like he’s wanking! Then Russel Howcroft says “in marketing, we know that-” and another television bites the dust.

This veers wildly between lame clip comedy – seriously guys, leave this to the Chaser – and borderline dull analysis of political marketing. They show clips, then they restate what we just saw in their own terms: “it’s the most positive negative ad I’ve seen” “we have two opposition leaders here – they’re both running against the Labour Party” and so on. Which tells us what exactly? Who cares, time for more kak-tastic attempts to out-do each other describing Kevin Rudd’s hand gestures. All this is painful enough when it’s regular Gruen, because at least then the marketing they’re promoting is peddling trivial crap; here it’s-

Look, forgive us for noticing that everyone on Gruen Nation‘s panel is either a straight-up millionaire, someone just a regular shitload richer than you and I, someone connected to one of the political parties or someone who makes a living in the media commentating on politicians: in short, people from the well-off end of the spectrum. Who gives a fuck what they think? These are people with enough money to cushion themselves from the excesses of government policy: they have no skin in this game. Having them talk about politics in Australia is like having a bunch of high-paid architects sitting around discussing the designs of housing commission flats. Sure, you can do it and you can even call it good television, but it’s kind of offensive to the people who have to live under those conditions.

This has an effect on the comedy side of things because there’s a big difference between people making fun of a system that treats them poorly and people who are part of the system having a laugh amongst themselves. For a show that’s meant to be informative, there’s zero attempt – via either comedy or analysis – to get at the real heart of the political system, because this show purposely isn’t about that. It’s just forty five minutes each week of wealthy people who have minimal interaction with the pointy end of government policy – it’s doubtful they use many services with “public” on the front – chortling amongst themselves about what a good or bad job their professional peers are doing selling life-changing policies to the little people.

Gruen Nation is a cynical embarrassment, a show that pretends political messaging can and should be divorced from the political message. It’s a show made by an elite condescending to the masses, patting them on the head and saying “here, let us explain this to you” about a subject that for them means little more than who’s going to be signing their next massive pay check. Fuck this show.

As for The Hamster Decides… eh, it was okay.

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12 Comments

  • Blues says:

    The Craig Emerson bit on Hampster was god awful, same with Latter. They really need to rethink putting the politicians on their show because the pollies seem to be even worse when they’re in on the joke.

  • Billy c says:

    Anabel Crabb drives me up the wall. It started when she worked for Fairfax and she would call the Prime Minister the Ruddbott for precisely no reason over and over again. My objection to her is that she wants to be a comedian and acts like a comedian but does not say anything funny. She’s a journalist who desperately wants to be taken less seriously.
    I don’t disagree with your criticism but Gruen is what it is. An attempt to make a year nine media studies class entertaining. All the teachers talk down to the audience and sometimes say rude words. Anderson goes for the gutter as often as possible to try and be cool. Anyone with half a brain has already done this show in their head while reading reading the paper. Hilariously it’s probably the only place I will see any ads as I download all my shows or watch the Abc. It is boringly smug.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    I can’t really agree with the notion that, ‘the rich have no skin in the game’. When in history have the rich been content to be ‘just rich’? I mean Murdoch and Reinhart who probably earn more than the panel members and the audience combined continually want to shape public and political opinion for their gain. The guys on the Gruen aren’t that rich to be so blatant about where they stand but hell you don’t have to be Hayek to realise where they can make more money. There’s a lot of money to be made by advertisers in, ‘this is just business as usual’ rather than any real shakeup. Anderson is probably salivating at the lips to have an easy time with a Coalition government again.

    Crabb annoys me too albeit for different reasons. Her ‘inside track/goss’ schtick is trivial and the whole ’50’s housewife aesthetic’ in KC is really weird. Though I thought ‘Ruddbot’ was made up by the Canberra Press Gallery and disgruntled Labor staffers about Rudd’s ability to switch from warm, affable salesman in front of the public/cameras in contrast to cold, calculating mechanical apparatchik behind closed doors hence being called ‘Dr Death’ in Queensland.

  • Andore Jr. says:

    The ‘little people’ don’t get a say in comedy, they’re the target most of the time. Specially if they ever summon the courage to actually speak out against some ‘life-changing’ policy they feel strongly about, they get their fucken head bitten off by the same sneering bastards whose very profession used to be on their side not so long ago.

    Dave Hughes: Ooorrrrrrh, so there was a protest last week about new fisheries regulations, and have a look at this bloke

    [cut to a shot of some fisherman unhappy holding up a poster, who trips or has a sign misspelled or has some guy behind him pulling a face, fucking etc etc]

    Dave Hughes: [momentary pause while the audience’s sneering laughter fades down] What’s all that about?

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Good point, though we did delete part of our rant (because, well, there’s only so much we can expect you to deal with) where we clarified that at least the ad agency guys (as businessmen) would have some personal interest in the result.

    Thing is, if the party that’s technically opposed to their interests get in, their wealth provides a cushion from any adverse outcomes – it’s hardly like Labour is going to nationalise the ad agencies. Whereas those on lower incomes tend to actually get screwed when the Liberals come in and cut government spending.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    But it’s those semi-mythical ‘Howard battlers’ w/could vote for a Coalition government this time around since they agree on conservative social issues (immigration, gay marriage, climate change, no wowerism/pc etc) and liberal economic issues (immigration, climate change, free market = more opportunities etc) that the Coalition advertises.

    I think I understand what your point is- these are rich guys with soft left neoliberal leanings who can afford to be both conceited and ‘concerned’. But ultimately they depend on masses of people (most of which they would want nothing to do with in day to day life) who have discretionary income and have dreams of a better life. And it’s probably not the glamorous life they want us to believe in either. Add to that the political, industry and business ties you said earlier and it’s an interesting conundrum hosts find themselves in. That’s why you need someone like a Micallef and his writers to place a cur on both their houses or even somebody shrill like Hardy or a Bolt (who on occasion can be intentionally funny) to comment on politics.

    I mean the mechanics of what people vote for is interesting but this is hardly the place to discuss it – a comedy blog with nested comments.

  • BIlly C says:

    That’s a really good point but I think it goes more to format of the shows and the fact that political comedians in the country don’t get a chance to do Tv very often. Hughes job on the project is to throw to footage a researcher has found and do a tag because he can’t improvise and has very little to contribute. He’s an okay stand-up can write decent gags but is terrible talking to other people and stutters his lines. He’s not much better on radio. You are correct that there’s a lot of snark on tv and radio because it’s lazy easy comedy and it’s quicker to make fun of something than do some work. There are political comedians out there but people don’t really go and see them in Australia and they don’t get on tell because that would be ‘bias’.

  • Andore Jr. says:

    Michallef, with respect, isn’t above this either – his last show offered up a pastiche of your conservative talkback caller sitting at the desk with predictable rants.
    BackBerner did the same in the early 2000s with ‘Dexter Pinion’; I can’t understand the reasoning myself – what, today’s politicians don’t have values or principles we as comedians can ridicule, but you, the viewer, might, so fuck you?!?
    Yes your average talkback caller ringing up can be the source of much idiocy and humor, but as the post mentions, the ‘little people’ will hardly give a fuck what some idiot rings up to complain about, next to ‘a system that treats them poorly’. The former should be the last resort, not the first.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    A good political comedy shouldn’t let the “little people” off the hook entirely – they do play a part in the system after all, and at least some of them vote for dickheads and against their own interests with clear eyes. Mindlessly supporting a system that treats you like shit does set you up for justified ridicule, though you’re 100% correct that the system (and those who run it) should always be first on the shit list.

    What stinks about Gruen is the condescension: it’s a show where the upper-middle class explains advertising that supposedly holds the mindless masses in thrall yet leaves the elite untouched. Not to mention the panelists – by virtue of their wealth and social status – often push for greater marketing expansion (their Olympics show was little more than “how could they have stuck more branding on everything?”) while largely being above the effects of that expansion.

    They watch DVDs and torrents, not free-to-air television; their neighbourhoods aren’t full of billboards; they read newspapers and magazines where the ads are designed to be subtle and un-intrusive; they listen to ABC radio. Basically, they make garbage then talk about how important it is to dump that garbage in other people’s back yards.

  • Malcolm says:

    Agree with comments until you say the Hamster Decides was, eh OK? Really, the Chaser team do the same lame routine and laugh at each other like schoolgirls. Gruen Nation had at least some qualified ‘experts’ as opposed to the Chaser which apart from the Emerson cringe factor exclusively focused on their own shallow and child like approach to politics – heaven help anyone expecting anything other than shallow narcissism.

  • billy c says:

    Well fair enough but I thought they had a few decent gags and the gags were well researched and made a point. The laughing at each other is difficult. If someone does a joke and the person next to them is stony faced while a live audience laughs it can make things strange. They probably over react at times a little. I think it’s interesting we have opposite reactions. I see the chaser as concentrating on the joke while Gruen gives incredibly obvious explanations of the self evident. You think it’s valid investigation and that the Chaser is vacuous. We obviously want opposite things from our comedy.